Strategically, the Kremlin views the special military operation in Ukraine as a preparation for a possible conflict with NATO – such a conclusion can be made after Vladimir Putin's speech at the Defense Ministry collegium. The special military operation in Ukraine will continue, and the government calls to live by the principle “Everything for the front! Everything for victory!” In this matter, the nuclear triad will be of great help to Russia.
“Country Gives Everything Army Asks for”
Vladimir Putin gave a keynote speech at an expanded collegium of the Russian Defense Ministry. The Russian President once again made it clear that the Kremlin views the military conflict in Ukraine as a “test of the pen” before a potential clash with NATO, which could be much more bloody and large-scale.
Incidentally, on the same day, Putin discussed the new draft of the Russian Foreign Policy Concept with the members of the National Security and Defense Council via videoconference. This time, the meeting was not attended by former President Dmitry Medvedev, who was on a visit to China to meet with President Xi Jinping.
Putin began his speech with words of gratitude to the Russian military personnel who are on the front lines, and a moment of silence for those who have died.
Putin's speech was notable for the fact that the Russian President tried to give answers to all the “burning questions” on the agenda. The agenda, as both February 24 and September 21 showed, burst into the everyday lives of millions of people in an instant.
What can be expected in the future? Putin made it clear that the military operation will continue. Moreover, the President stressed that the possibilities of state financing and of the national military-industrial complex will be adjusted to the needs of the army (“We do not have any restrictions on financing. The country and the government give everything that the army asks for.”)
Most Likely Adversary
What is next? The President has made it clear that the special military operation will not be the end. It follows from Putin's words that strategically the Kremlin evaluates the special military operation in Ukraine as the first act before a possible direct confrontation with NATO. In fact, Vladimir Putin began the substantive part of his speech by admitting “that today the military potential and capabilities of almost all major NATO countries are actively used against Russia.”
Speaking about the state of the Armed Forces, the President had to talk about problems, especially since the military conflict in Ukraine has highlighted a whole host of serious problematic issues. However, it would probably be wrong from a managerial point of view to whip up speaking about the problems in the work of the Defense Ministry and the Armed Forces in the presence of Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov in front of their direct subordinates. That is why Putin did not talk about issues, but chose the neutral wording “questions on which we, as they say in such cases, must work particularly hard.”
“I mean communications, automated troop and weapon control systems, counter-battery combat tactics, targeting, and so on,” Putin said. He listed the problems familiar to those who read battlefield reports and war correspondents.
However, as the Russian President stressed, the priority is to study NATO weapons and capabilities during the conflict in Ukraine.
In this regard, Putin immediately instructed the leadership of the Ministry of Defense and the General Staff to:
- study the weapons, military equipment, and technology that are in NATO's arsenal;
- analyze and systematize combat experience gained in the course of military operations;
- improve the training of military personnel, taking into account the experience gained in Ukraine and Syria.
“Today our task is to implement the entire set of measures necessary for the qualitative renewal and improvement of the Armed Forces,” said Putin. It is the strategic task which the Russian army is facing, according to the President.
Putin also instructed that the participants of the military operation should be given priority in the appointment to command positions and in admission to military universities, all the way up to the Academy of the General Staff.
Sarmats and Yarses
The nuclear triad is another important moment. Putin said that 91% of strategic nuclear weapons are new modern models. It is clear that the Pentagon and NATO headquarters took notes from the speech of the Russian President with a pencil in his hand.
At the same time, Putin admitted that there are delays in the launch of the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missiles (“We know that there is some movement to the right [in terms of time]. This does not change our plans. Everything will be implemented.”)
“The Yars missile complexes continue to arrive in the troops. We will continue the development of hypersonic missile systems that are unique in their characteristics and have no analogues in the world. In early January of the next year, the frigate Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Gorshkov with the latest, I repeat, unparalleled in the world Zirkon sea-based hypersonic missile systems will enter combat duty,” said Vladimir Putin.
By the way, on Monday Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko also touched on the nuclear triad at a joint press conference. The Presidents said that Belarus, with Russia's help, had re-equipped its Su-25 airplanes to use an air warhead with a nuclear warhead.
Issues we Have to Work on
After the nuclear triad, Vladimir Putin again returned to the problems that have been starkly revealed by the military conflict in Ukraine. In his wording, these are “issues where there is especially room for improvement.”
His words about the need to increase the combat capabilities of the air force “when operating in the area of modern air defense systems” are an unambiguous conclusion from the combat operations in Ukraine, because Russian aviation does not risk performing tasks in the area of Ukrainian air defense.
Another pain point the Russian president spoke about is drones. “I know that industry has all the capabilities to create a wide range of airborne and ground-based drones with the best, highest tactical and technical characteristics, including elements of artificial intelligence,” Putin said.
Apparently, the Russian industry is very successful at hiding what it has. Practically all the time there are complaints about the lack of drones in the troops. Why go far? The Russian Air Force has used Iranian-made Shahid drones in recent air attacks on Ukraine's energy infrastructure except that they have been renamed Geranium.
In addition, Putin once again reported that of the 300,000 people drafted for mobilization, some are in the combat zone, while 150,000 are undergoing training.
In conclusion, the Russian leader thanked the volunteers who help the military with equipment, gifts and letters. He urged the Defense Ministry to take criticism into account, even if it's about people's emotional reactions.
‘United Forces of West’
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who spoke next, echoed Putin's words, saying: “Today in Ukraine, Russian servicemen are being countered by the combined forces of the West.” To be fair, the “combined forces of the West” have not yet appeared on the battlefield. The United States and other Western countries are only supplying weapons and have been training and preparing AFU soldiers for years before that.
Shoigu also said that the Ukrainian leadership is using prohibited methods, such as terrorist attacks, contract killings and shelling of civilians. Although, of course, it would be much more interesting to learn what the defense minister proposes to stop such “activities.”
Shoigu stressed that the current situation benefits primarily the United States, which, on the one hand, is interested in weakening the EU countries and, on the other hand, seeks to “prolong military action in Ukraine as long as possible in order to weaken our country.”
The name of Angela Merkel, who has become very popular with the Russian leadership thanks to her admissions that no one was going to implement the Minsk agreements, was also mentioned. Shoigu made a brief excursus into history, recalling that it was the West that financed the 2014 coup in Kiev, which resulted in the “armed confrontation in Donbass.”
The Defense Minister informed that 27 countries have already supplied Ukraine with arms worth $97 billion, “NATO staff officers, artillerymen and other specialists” are in the combat zone, and the needs of the Ukrainian Armed Forces are met by about 500 space satellites, among which 70 are military.
“The total silence of the Western media about the Ukrainian military's war crimes looks like absolute cynicism,” Shoigu said. Although this question should be addressed to the Foreign Ministry and Russian news agencies, which are obliged by their service to be able to convey information to a variety of foreign audiences.
At the same time, the Minister acknowledged that the partial mobilization had problems, but emphasized that all the problematic issues were promptly solved.
Also, according to Shoigu, in addition to the 300,000 people mobilized by conscription, another 20,000 Russians went as volunteers. In total, according to the Defense Minister, 250,000 people have already passed through the combat zone.
Then Shoigu repeated Putin's words that the Sea of Azov was again an internal sea of the Russian Federation, as it had been for 300 years.
Sergei Shoigu's speech about the nuclear triad and the military development of the Arctic was clearly addressed to the United States and NATO countries, where they keep a close eye on weapons that could be used in a potential military conflict.
Sergei Shoigu complemented Vladimir Putin by saying that the level of modern samples in the strategic nuclear forces had been brought up to 91.3%. According to Shoigu, the rearmament of two missile regiments with the Yars missile system was completed, a regiment equipped with the Avangard missile system (a hypersonic weapon) was put on combat duty, and the Defense Ministry began to put the Sarmat system into service.
In addition, the Russian strategic nuclear forces can count on the new Tu-160M strategic missile-carrier and Tu-95M aircraft, while the Navy received the nuclear submarine Generalissimo Suvorov armed with the ballistic missile Bulava. Shoigu also informed the audience that serial deliveries of the hypersonic Tsirkon missile had begun, and that the frigate Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Gorshkov with hypersonic missiles would soon come off the slipway.
Sergei Shoigu explained that a number of proposals are a response to NATO's military buildup near Russia's borders. The talk about the proposal to raise the age of recruits from 18 to 21 (accordingly, the upper threshold to 30 years) and to create two military districts: the Moscow and Leningrad ones and form motorized rifle divisions in the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions and in Karelia.
As we can see, on the whole, the Defense Ministry board was devoted not only to operational, but also to strategic issues. Both Putin and Shoigu emphasized possible confrontation with NATO and preparations for this potential military conflict.
Symbolically, it was on this very day that Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky traveled to Washington to negotiate new arms supplies for Ukraine. Joe Biden has already said that Washington has supplied Kiev with one Patriot surface-to-air missile system. All this means that the U.S. (or rather, in a broader sense, NATO) and Russia are aimed at continuing the proxy conflict on the territory of Ukraine.